For many years in the aftermath of the 9/11, we have been told that America is not at war with Islam or Muslims, but only with Muslim extremists/radicals/terrorists.
It seems that the New York Police Department has other ideas.
The NYPD has designated American mosques as potential terrorist organizations, which would then grant them the right to conduct surveillance on anyone praying inside.
So to be clear, it is as simple as this: the NYPD has designed a policy of following an entire community not on the basis of any wrongdoing, but on the basis of their faith affiliation. It is religious bigotry, plain and simple. It is also an embarrassment that the police department which is designed to represent and protect all of us Americans has designated one group of Americans as potential terrorists not on the basis of anything they have done, but on the basis of their faith. This prejudice is unbecoming of America, of our legal code, and of our men and women in the shield.
The American organization Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has petitioned the Department of Justice to examine why and how the NYPD has designated mosques as terror organizations.
The Muslim Advocates legal organization and Center for Constitutional Rights issued this powerful response:
Today, the Associated Press revealed that the New York Police Department (NYPD) has designated entire swaths of Americans as “terrorists” without evidence of wrongdoing, simply because of their faith. This disturbing reminder of the urgent need for police reform in NYC comes on the 50th anniversary of the historic march in Washington DC, where brave and determined Americans convened with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to demand an end to the second-class citizen status of millions of Americans. The revelation that the NYPD has been secretly marking mosques as terrorism organizations, recording sermons in places of worship, and then spying on anyone who enters those mosques is shocking and is yet more evidence that the NYPD is trampling on Americans’ fundamental rights and freedoms. Through its policy, anyone can be labeled a terrorist, spied on, and land in an NYPD file.
The NYPD’s program does active harm to victims of surveillance not only in New York City but beyond. Our New Jersey clients have been marginalized, stigmatized and intimidated just for participating in daily activities that others take for granted – worshipping at religious services, going to school, attending a meeting of a college student organization, or even dining at a certain restaurant. And the “public safety benefits” to New Yorkers are a myth. In more than ten years of conducting this discriminatory program, the NYPD has obtained no leads at all. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and the department must stop egregious discriminatory policies that single out individuals simply because of how they pray.
They are right. This hideous practice not only tramples on the rights of American Muslims, it also makes a mockery of the very rights and freedoms that are at the heart of the American experiment. If America is great, if America wants to be great, its greatness is to be measured not in the size of the flags we fly, but the extent to which we recognize the innate rights of all of our citizens, starting with the most marginalized amongst us.
That would seem to be a message well worth remembering, especially on this week, the 50th anniversary of the March for Freedom and Jobs led by Dr. King on Washington. Part of Martin’s message was that people are to be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Judging people based on whether they pray in a temple, church, or mosque is no better than judging them on the basis of their skin color.